Alterations in polyamine levels induced by phorbol diesters and other agents that promote differentiation in human promyelocytic leukemia cells

E. Huberman, C. Weeks, A. Herrmann, M. Callaham, T. Slaga

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58 Scopus citations


Polyamine levels were evaluated in human HL-60 promyelocytic leukemia cells after treatment with inducers of terminal differentiation. Differentiation in these cells was determined by increases in the percentage of morphologically mature cells and in lysozyme activity. Treatment of the HL-60 cells with phorbol 12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA), phorbol 12,13-didecanoate or other inducers of terminal differentiation such as dimethylsulfoxide and retinoic acid resulted in increased levels of putrescine. However, no increase in putrescine could be detected after PMA treatment of a HL-60 cell variant that exhibited a decreased susceptibility to PMA-induced terminal differentiation. Similarly, no increase in putrescine was observed with two non-tumor-promoters (phorbol 12,13-diacetate and 4-O-methyl-PMA) or with anthralin, a non-phorbol tumor promoter. In addition to enhancing putrescine levels, PMA also increased the amount of spermidine and decreased the amount of spermine. The increase in putrescine and spermidine preceded the expression of the various differentiation markers. Unlike the changes observed in the polyamine levels after PMA treatment, the activities of ornithine and S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylases, which are polyamine biosynthetic enzymes, did not significantly change, α-Methylornithine and α-difluoromethylornithine and methylglyoxal bis(guanylhydrazone), which are inhibitors of the polyamine biosynthetic enzymes, did not affect differentiation in control or PMA-treated cells. Because of these observations, we suggest that the change in polyamine levels involve biochemical pathways other than the known biosynthetic ones. By-products of these pathways may perhaps be the controlling factors involved in the induction of terminal differentiation in the HL-60 and other cell types as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1062-1066
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - 1981
Externally publishedYes

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